A 10-step guide to clinician burnout


1. Quit taking care of yourself. There is no upper limit to the needs of patients. There is always more medicine to learn and do. Add to this the needs of children, aging parents and a partner — your time for yourself quickly becomes zero. Want to get burned out quickly? Quit exercising. Eat on the run. Have disrupted sleep. Don’t set professional boundaries. Miss enough first steps, parent’s medical appointments, anniversaries and you will be well on your way.

2. Take the decisions of others in medicine personally. Colleagues may act selfishly, and you cannot change that. Trick yourself into trying to change others and you will soon be fried.

3. Hold firmly to the belief that you have control over your schedule and that the decisions made about your schedule are logical to someone, somewhere.

4. Attempt to stay on top of paperwork/EMR. Let it eat at you if you are behind. Bring it home with you most nights.

5. Isolate yourself from healthy colleagues, conferences, CME and other opportunities for professional growth. Surround yourself with unhealthy, burned out people who hate their jobs. Treat your staff poorly.

6. Expect patients to be logical and think how you think. Expect people to do more than they can. Judge people and the choices they make.

7. Rush through your day. Don’t connect with patients and their families. Forget their names and remember them instead by their pathology.

8. Take for granted the information you have learned about anatomy and physiology. Forget about the daily miracles we witness. Forget those who walked before us, those who have dedicated their life to the pursuit of medicine, the intelligence and hard work of other people.

9. Become rigid and resigned rather than attempting to see opportunity in unexpected changes.

10. Beat yourself up for making mistakes. Act as though it is not acceptable to make mistakes and it is a deeply moral flaw if they are made. Don’t talk about them with your colleagues. Don’t forgive yourself. Question your talents and whether you should be in medicine.

Kathy Stepien is a pediatrician who blogs at the Institute for Physician Wellness.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com


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